CDC: The average American has gained about 15 pounds since 1994

Obesity tile
Obesity tile

Hefty. Full figured. Stocky.

No matter what words we use to describe ourselves, the conclusion is still the same: the average person in Tennessee is a lot heavier than they were 20 years ago.

According to the federal government, the average American in 2014 weighed 15 1/2 pounds more than they did in 1994.

You remember 1994 - Bill Clinton was in the White House, Forrest Gump was in the movie theaters and O.J. Simpson was charged with murdering his ex-wife and a friend.

But do you remember how you put on the pounds in the 20 years since?

Does this help?

McDonald's introduced McFlurries in 1998. Burger King countered with the Enormous Omelet Sandwich in 2005, and McDonald's countered that with the 42-ounce soda in 2007. Also that year, Wendy's got into the act with the Baconator, which in its triple form includes three quarter-pound patties with nine strips of bacon, four slices of cheese, ketchup and mayonnaise. Then, in 2010, KFC introduced the much-maligned Double Down, featuring bacon, special sauce and two different kinds of cheese sandwiched between two deep fried chicken fillets.

"The average portion size for any given meal is astronomically bigger," said Dr. Kevin Niswender, an expert on diabetes, endocrinology, and metabolism at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Dr. Richard Pigg, a family and internal medicine specialist at CHI Memorial's Primary Care Associates in Hixson, noted that prices have gone down, as well.

"Over the last 20 years, it has become a lot easier to get junk food at a cheaper price," he said.

It's not just the food. It's also the lack of exercise.

Television sets are way bigger, and "binging" can mean watching a dozen episodes of your favorite show while packing in the chicken wings.

And then there is this internet thing, that was barely getting started in 1994, a year before Amazon started selling books and two years before eBay brought collectibles addiction to the masses.

"When I was a kid after school and I had free time, what I wanted to be was outside, playing basketball or baseball or soccer," Niswender said. "Now, give a kid a free minute and his nose is buried in a screen."

Pigg added that one of the downsides of our technological advances is that "we can do everything sitting down. Especially children and younger age groups are definitely not playing outside as much as they used to."

The consequences have been weighty indeed.

According to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average man in the U.S., as of 2014, the latest date for which data is available, weighed 168.5 pounds, up 15 pounds since 20 years earlier. If you are an average woman, you weighed 152 pounds, up 16 from 1994.

Some folks have added more pounds than others.

The average black male was 18 pounds heavier, while black women gained 22 pounds.

Non-Hispanic white men averaged 15.7 pounds heavier, but non-Hispanic white women were 17.6 pounds heavier.

Our children are carrying more weight as well. The average 11-year-old boy weighed 13.5 pounds more in 2014 than in 1994, while the average 11-year-old girl was 7.4 pounds heavier than her 1994 counterpart.

The CDC did not collect data on Hispanics in 1994, according to a spokesman, so comparison data is not available.

Niswender noted it takes only a slight increase in food intake to put on more pounds, much less than most people think. To gain one pound in a year, "it takes fewer extra calories every day than would be found in a single piece of Life Savers candy," he said.

There is hope. Pigg noted that recent virtual reality games such as Pokémon Go have encouraged people to get outdoors and walk around.

"You can try to steer your kids toward fun activities that still involve the technology they love," he said.

Contact staff writer Steve Johnson at 423-757-6673,, on Twitter @stevejohnsonTFP, or on Facebook,

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